Notes: Werth returns to his roots
Catcher says his natural position is behind the plate
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The catcher effortlessly gunned down No. 14 for the Tampa Yankees by a good distance, and methodically went back to work.Jayson Werth then readjusted his mask and went back to nursing Clearwater Thresher right-hander Andrew Cruse through the rest of the second inning on Thursday. Though the Phillies insist it's not related to Carlos Ruiz's sore right shoulder, Werth returned to his roots, catching three innings in a Minor League game. Three other runners swiped bases on lower throws, two of which he dropped, and a third which he dropped transferring it to his throwing hand. Werth also blocked a ball in the dirt. "It's crazy how quick stuff comes back to you even though you haven't done it in a while," said Werth, who has been catching bullpens and working with catching instructor Mick Billmeyer. "I still feel comfortable back there, but need some looks in a game. Ability-wise, I still think I can do it." Though Werth has never appeared in a Major League game at catcher, he almost did twice with the Dodgers. On those occasions, he was dressed and ready to go -- sort of. "Both times, we ended up scoring in the bottom of the ninth, so I didn't catch the 10th," Werth said. "I was upstairs in the clubhouse looking for [stuff] -- strapping on gear. I remember running back through the tunnel as we're scoring screaming, 'Yes!,' and ripping it off. It was exciting going through that." Werth was the starting catcher at Glenwood (Chatham, Ill.) High School. Werth caught 23 games with the 1997 Gulf Coast Orioles in his first professional season. He added 46 more with Toronto's Double-A team in Tennessee, and 23 the next season at Triple-A Syracuse. "It's probably my natural position," Werth said. "I'm more experienced behind the plate than anywhere else. I'd like to think I can do it, and it's one of my strengths. It's one of the things I bring to the table. If something happens to somebody, you have me to rely on. I still think I can do it." Billmeyer and Werth spent Wednesday night working on blocks. For a guy who's barely caught for the past five years, Billmeyer liked what he saw -- except for one thing. "I'm going to take him back to dressing school," Billmeyer said. "He was a little slow [getting the gear on]." No matter, because Werth's ability to strap on the gear is looked at as a bonus. "He's here on an emergency-basis," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He's not going to be our backup catcher. That's not his role. That said, it's nice to be able to have that guy available if we do get into a situation where we got 10, 12, 15 innings and we need another guy." Eighth inning? Jon Lieber doesn't expect to be used in the eighth inning. His performance may say otherwise. The veteran starter-turned-reliever tossed two scoreless innings against the Red Sox on Thursday, and he might be a fit for the setup role.
"I don't rule out the eighth inning for any reason," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "He holds runners. He's quick to the plate, so in late innings he's tough to steal on. He's a strike-thrower who won't beat himself by walking guys."Dobbs healing: Greg Dobbs devoured his Chipotle Mexican Grill dinner one-handed Wednesday night, while watching "Lost." His left wrist dined on a bucket of ice. Dobbs' ill-timed injury may have evened the field with Chris Coste -- who himself may have been helped by Carlos Ruiz's sore right shoulder. Dobbs is nursing a sore left wrist, suffered March 18 against the Devil Rays. "I'm doing everything I can, and am confident that it's getting better every day," Dobbs said. "I hope it doesn't take much longer." Starting in right field against Tampa Bay that morning, Dobbs crashed into the wall pursuing a foul ball, jamming the wrist. He taped it and stayed in the game, going 0-for-4. "It was killing me, but I wasn't coming out," he said. Dobbs hopes to return in "one or two days," and he has been taking ground balls. He has built up equity by hitting .357 (15-for-42), with three homers. "The timing couldn't be worse," Dobbs said. "I'm just praying it doesn't ruin my chances." Other injuries: Ruiz (right shoulder), Chris Coste (right hamstring), Geoff Geary (left hamstring) and Matt Smith (left groin) are banged up. Smith and Geary hope to pitch on Friday. Philling in: Tom Gordon is scheduled to throw Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Braves, giving him two appearances in three days. He'll likely appear in back-to-back games next week. ... Voting for the Phillies Wall of Fame ends Friday at 12:01 p.m. John Vukovich, who passed away on March 8, is one of 15 Phillies alumni on the ballot. The top five vote-getters are then presented to a special Phillies Wall of Fame Selection Committee, which selects the 2007 inductee. Up next: J.A. Happ will face the Braves at Bright House Networks Field at 1:05 p.m. ET on Friday. Brett Myers remains in line to open the regular season against Atlanta on April 2, so he'll pitch in a Minor League game at the Carpenter Complex.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.